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Salt Domes – An Economically Significant Geological Formation

Enlarged view of salt crystals

What is a Salt Dome?

A salt dome is a geological formation deep under the surface of the Earth. It is a vertical column of salt which protrudes upwards into the layer of sediments called the caprock. Salt formations are typically horizontal, but when in a sedimentary basin where a thick layer of salt is covered by a layer of sediments of heavy mineral, salt formations can rise vertically. 

How is Salt Domes Formed?

A phenomenon known as diapirism takes place beneath the surface of the Earth. It allows lighter material to force its way upwards through denser material. In the case of a salt dome, salt has a lower density compared to the rocks above it. When a gravitational force, tectonic force, and a combination of various other forces act upon salt, this results in the deformation of salt. As a result, the salt flows upwards like a viscous liquid. 

For the formation of a salt dome, the pressure on the salt must be high enough to allow the salt to penetrate through the layer of sediment above it. Once the salt begins to flow, the process will continue as long as the pressure on the salt is more than the forces acting against it, but once the forces are in equilibrium, the flow of salt will stop. 

When conditions are favorable, salt domes can grow thousands of feet above their core. They can also reach the surface of the Earth and result in the formation of salt glaciers. The formation of salt domes does not occur overnight. It is a long process which can take centuries. The process begins in an isolated marine inlet. When the water evaporates, it leaves concentrated salt. Geologists believe that the evaporation process should occur multiple times. This will help achieve the required concentration of salt essential for creating a salt dome

Once the large deposits of salt are created, wind and other external forces will come into play. Over time, sediments are deposited on the salt. Once the sediments have completely covered the salt formation, the forces acting on the salt will become stronger. Since salt is a mineral with lighter density, it will find its way upwards through the sediments. 

Size of the Salt Domes 

Salt domes are often very large structures. The diameter of the salt dome can range from ½ a mile to over five miles. The origin or the parent rock from which the salt dome rises is typically found thousands of feet below the surface. A typical salt dome rises at least a mile from its origin and some are known to be higher than six miles.

Economic Significance of Salt Domes 

Salt domes are important due to various reasons. They serve as a reservoir for oil and gas. They are also a critical source for sulfur and salt. Once the salt is extracted, the remaining salt dome holes can be used as an effective underground storage and waste disposal site for hazardous waste. 

Oil and Gas Reservoirs 

Salt domes have a unique significance in the oil and gas industry. As the salt is rising vertically, it exerts pressure on the rocks above it. The caprock, which is the layer of sediment above the salt, is arched upwards. This upward arch serves as a structural trap and can reserve oil and gas. As the caprock is arched upwards, oil and gas migrate towards the salt dome. Salt is an effective trap rock as oil can come to rest up along the salt. 

This upward arching of the rock and collection of oil and gas in the arch allows better flow rates of hydrocarbons. This helps in the extraction and recovery of fossil fuels trapped along the salt dunes. The extraction of hydrocarbons along the salt dunes is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly compared to conventional drilling. A single salt dome can have numerous reservoirs of oil and gas at various depths and locations around the salt dome. 

A Source of Salt and Sulfur 

Since salt domes are salt formations, they can be exploited through mining. Salt is used as an essential raw material in numerous industries. It is widely used in the chemical industry and for treating snow-covered highways. Apart from commercial use, salt also has domestic applications as well. 

Another important mineral that can be recovered from salt domes is sulfur. Sulfur is not a part of the salt dome but an important component of the caprock. It occurs as a crystalline material and is known to be formed as a result of bacterial activity. The caprock of certain salt domes contains enough sulfur that can be recovered economically. 

The process of recovering sulfur from salt dome involving drilling a well and treating the rock with superheated water and air. However, as of now, this method of recovering sulfur is not cost-effective. Therefore most of the sulfur which is produced today is a byproduct of refining hydrocarbons. 

Underground Storage and Waste Disposal 

When the salt, sulfur and hydrocarbons are extracted, this leaves large holes which can be used for underground storage. Some of the mines which are developed into salt domes are sealed and can be used for the storage of oil and gas. In the US and Russia, salt domes also serve as state reservoirs of helium gas. This is because salt is the only type of rock that has very low permeability. As a result, it can hold the tiny atoms of helium gas. 

Since salt has low levels of permeability, it also restricts the flow of any type of liquid into the soil. These properties make salt domes very effective for the disposal of hazardous radioactive waste.

Conclusion 

Salt domes are a distinct geological formation with great economic value. Though it takes centuries to form, once formed, humans can continue to benefit from them for years.  

Top Five Rice Producing Nations in the World

Rice crop in a field

Rice is one of the top three food crops grown in the world. Based on production and use of land, rice only follows maize and sugarcane. Around 78% of the total crop grown in the world is consumed by humans as food. While it continues to be a dinner table essential, it has many other uses as well. It is used as a gluing agent in various industries and is primarily consumed in the Eastern part of the world, specifically Asia. Additionally, rice has some nutritional benefits, especially brown rice.

It is one of the very few crops which need a lot of water to grow. Hence, it is grown in areas where water is available abundantly. Rice, along with maize and wheat, is the main source of calories for almost 50% of the world’s population. It is cheap, easily accessible, and many different varieties of rice are available. Since it is a staple crop for more than half of the world’s population, rice cultivation is increasing every year.

However, with the ever-growing population, the consumption of rice is also on the rise. In fact, the rate is much higher than the cultivation rate. Another major issue with rice cultivation is the shortage of water. Thus more and more farmers are relying on the genetic modified crop which can be grown in a shorter span of time with less need of water. 

Rice is mainly grown in the Asian belt with countries like China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh securing a place in the top ten list of world’s largest rice producers. But the interesting fact is the same countries are also the world’s largest consumer of rice. 

It is estimated that the demand for rice will rise up to 555 million tons in the current year as opposed to 490 million tons in 2019. It is also expected that Asians will be responsible for consuming 67 % of the total yield. An overview of top rice-producing countries is as follows. 

China

China tops the list of the world’s largest producers of rice. The largest producer of rice is also the biggest consumer, as it also tops the list of countries with the largest population. Rice, being a dietary staple in China is essentially part of every Chinese meal. The country alone produces 35% of the top world’s rice yield. China manages to produce around 197 million tons of rice every year.

The crop is grown on more than 30 million hectares of land. With technological advancements in genetic engineering and increased use of genetically modified foods, the yield of rice per hectare in China is much higher compared to other countries in the world. China consumes almost 148 million tons on its own. Whereas the rest is exported to other parts of the world. 

India

India secures second place on the list of top rice-producing nations in the world. The cultivation area of rice in India is more than in China. Rice is grown on 44.1 million hectares in India as opposed to 30.17 million hectares in China. However, due to the use of genetic engineering and hybrid seeds, the annual rice yield in China is more than that in India.

The annual yield in India is 148 million tons compared to 197 million tons in China. More than 50% of the Indian population feeds on rice as a primary food and consumes around 99 million tons of rice domestically. This also makes India the second-largest consumer of rice. 

Moreover, the government supports rice cultivation by providing subsidies on rice seeds, fertilizers and machinery. Together India and China account for more than 55% of the total rice grown in the world. 

Indonesia

Third on the list is Indonesia. Compared to the two rice giants, the rice cultivation in Indonesia is substantially less. The crop is grown on approximately 12.2 million hectares of land. 65 million tons of rice is produced annually in Indonesia, but the country only consumes 37.5 million tons. The rest of the rice crop is exported to other parts of the world. 

The global demand for rice is increasing very rapidly and Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country, is playing an important role in meeting this demand. 

Bangladesh 

Bangladesh is the fourth-largest producer of rice and has the highest per capita rice consumption in the world. The crop is grown on 12 million hectares of land.  The annual rice production in Bangladesh is 47 million tons. Unlike the top three producers of rice where rice is grown on a large field, Bangladesh rice cultivation is usually owned and managed by families.

The annual consumption in Bangladesh is around 40 million tons. Thus, there is practically nothing left to export. Rice is considered as a food security in Bangladesh mainly because of the high consumption rate.

Thailand

The fifth-largest producer of rice is Thailand. With cultivation on an area of fewer than 10 million hectares, the country manages to produce more than 30 million tons of rice. However, the consumption of rice is around 10 million tons domestically. Hence, Thailand is one of the major exporters of rice around the world. In fact, Thailand is the largest exporter of rice with annual rice exports of around 18 million tons. The jasmine basmati rice grown in Thailand is one of the most famous varieties in the world.

Source: 

Top Five Countries with Largest Reserves of Natural Gas

Stove with gas lights running
Source: https://pixabay.com/images/id-2257

Natural gas is considered to be one of the most essential fuels used in households. Natural gas, which primarily comprises methane is commonly used in oven and stoves in almost every country of the world. Chemically, natural gas is composed of one part of carbon and four parts of hydrogen. It is much lighter in weight compared to oxygen. This is the reason why it evaporates very rapidly. Natural gas has a pungent smell which can be noticed quite easily. 

This gas is an important fossil fuel and originally natural gas reserves were classified as associated and non-associated reserves. Associated gas reserves are found along with oil reserves. They can be extracted or transferred back to the reservoir. Non-associated gas reserves are gas reserves found independently. However, as of now, we categorize natural gas into two different types; conventional natural gas and unconventional natural gas, also known as shale gas. These two distinct types of natural gas are found in different types of rock formations. Regardless of the type, natural gas is primarily used as a domestic fuel. It also has wide industrial applications and is also used as an alternative fuel for vehicles. 

Today the global reserves of natural gas are estimated to be 7,121.4 trillion cubic feet. 80% of the total proven natural gas reserves are found in eight countries. It is expected that there are other reserves of natural gas, which are not proven so far. From the data of 2018, the top five countries with the largest reserves of natural gas are: 

Russia

Russia holds the largest reserves of natural gas in the world. As of 2018, the country reserves are estimated to be 1,688.23 trillion. This makes up for around 24% of the global reserves of natural gas. Hence, Russia has a big stake whenever the global gas prices fluctuate. More than 50% of the Russian gas reserves are located in the cold region of Siberia, specifically in Nadym-Pur-Taz (NPT) region of the upper western Siberia. The three largest gas fields in Siberia are Yamburg, Urengov, and Medvedev, which account for nearly 45% of the total country’s gas output.

Gazprom, a state-run company, is responsible for more than 80% of the gas production in the country. This is one of the biggest known stakes in a natural resource for a single entity as this accounts for 20% of the world’s gas production. 

Iran

Second on the list with the largest gas reserves is Iran. The country which has always been under political instability and sanctions has managed to capitalize on its natural resources. Iran is not only rich in natural gas but possesses many other natural resources. 

Iran holds almost 1,200 trillion tons of natural gas, which accounts for almost 18% of the total global gas reserves. The largest gas field in the world, the South Pars is located in Iran. More than 80% of the Iranian gas reserves are non-associated gas reserves. This means that they are not found along with reserves of crude oil. 60 % of the country’s total gas reserves are located in the ocean as South Pars extends to Qatar and a large part of it is in the ocean. This gas field is responsible for more than 25% of the country’s total gas output. Other major gas fields in Iran include the North Pars, Kish and Kangan. 

Recently, Iran had discovered a new natural gas reserve, which according to its oil ministry holds 19 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of the resource and could potentially produce 400 million barrels, worth about $40 billion. However, increased sanctions by the US may prove cumbersome and delay or even halt their natural gas exports from this area. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

Qatar

Qatar, a Middle Eastern nation, which is the largest supplier of LNG liquid natural gas comes third on the list of largest gas reserves.. The country possesses around 175.5 billion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves. The South Pars located in Iran extends to Qatar. This is the world’s largest offshore field holding the largest reserves of non-associated gas. Another major gas field located in Qatar is the North field. Also, the Barzan gas project played an important role in increasing the output of gas in Qatar since its completion in 2015.

Saudi Arabia

The global oil-producing giant and a leading member of OPEC comes fourth on the list. The country holds over 7.9 billion cubic meters of gas reserves which makes up almost 4% of the world’s total proven gas reserves. 

The Famous Ghawar onshore, Ghawar offshore, Safaniya, and Zuluf fields produce more than 50 % of the total gas output. These gas fields account for more than 55% of the total reserves in the country. There are many non associated gas fields in the country as well. They include Karan field, Arabiyah field, and Hasbah gas fields. 

Turkmenistan

5th on the list is Turkmenistan. The country also holds proven gas reserves of 7.57 billion cubic meters which account for almost 4% of the world’s supply. The reserves are located mainly in the Amu Darya basin in the South East and the Murgab South Caspian Basin which is located in Western Turkmenistan. The Dauletabad field is by far the oldest and the largest gas field in the whole country. 

The country lacks proper infrastructure and there have been very few developments when it comes to the oil and gas sector.  

There are some other major players when it comes to global reserves of natural gas. This includes countries such as Venezuela, Nigeria, Australia, Iraq, China and Israel with exports planned to go to Egypt and Jordan in the near future. Additionally, Israel recently signed a deal with Greece and Cyprus to export natural gas to these countries as well. 

Clear Quartz Crystal: The Master Healer

Photo by Jason D on Unsplash

Clear Quartz, part of the biggest and most diverse family in the mineral kingdom is the most iconic crystal of the quartz family. Clear quartz is abundantly found all over the world, as it can develop under different climatic conditions.

Also commonly known as the Rock Crystal or Ice Crystal, this gemstone is valued by not only healers and spiritual leaders, but by scientists as well. As this beautiful clear rock has extraordinary characteristics, it has long been considered the source of light for humanity.

History

Various cultures all over the world have included clear quartz crystals in their traditions and ceremonies. The crystal gets its name from the Greek word krystallos, which means ‘ice.’ It was named as such because the ancient Greek philosophers thought that it was a permanent form of ice, frozen so hard, preventing it from thawing.

Clear quartz has been held in high regard by each culture with a unique meaning. The Japanese thought of it as a symbol of purity, patience, and space, calling it the ‘prefect’ jewel.’ Native North Americans believed the rock to be animate, breathing once every hundred years. 

Some cultures used it as a religious talisman and included it in funeral rites, considering it as an urn for the spirits of their ancestors, and used to carve out the crystals shaped like human skulls. Some people also used the rock for its metaphysical power to heal illnesses.

Types of Quartz Crystals

There is a wide variety of quartz crystals other than the clear crystal found on the Earth. Some of the most popular types are listed below:

Amethyst

Also referred to as the Bishop’s Stone, the stone’s color ranges from soft lavender to deep purple. Representing royalty and spirituality, the stone is thought to promote creativity.

Citrine

The Lucky Merchant’s Stone ranging from shades of transparent and pale to golden yellow, is believed to attract joy, success, and all the good things in life.

Rose Quartz

Also called the Stone of Unconditional Love, its pale pink to deep reddish-pink hues symbolize love. It is said to promote loving feelings for oneself and others.

Smoky Quartz

The Stone of Power displays different shades of black and brown. A powerful grounding stone, it has the alleged ability to absorb negative vibes from the surrounding.

Tiger’s Eye

Popular for its chatoyancy and layers in rich gold, red and brown colors, this stone is a symbol of courage and the right use of power.

Carnelian

The orange and red warm and fiery tones of the stone helps boost confidence and motivates the person. It is believed to attract warmth and bliss in life.

Physical Properties of Clear Quartz Crystal

  • Chemical Formula: SiO2
  • Color: Clear, Multicolored, All spectrum colors, Black, Brown
  • Crystal Structure: Hexagonal
  • Hardness on Mohs Scale: 7
  • Cleavage: Indiscernible
  • Luster: Vitreous
  • Transparency: Transparent to Translucent

Appearance

The clear quartz crystal looks just as beautiful as ice. The ordinary-looking gemstone tends to hold within its pure light the entire color spectrum. Although it has the term ‘clear’ in its name, it can be transparent, milky or striped.

The smooth hexagonal prism has a cluster formation. It occurs in various shapes and sizes, with naturally faceted terminations at either one or each end of the crystal. Its shape and size depending on the rate at which the crystals are formed.

Clear quartz crystal forms in compact masses and druses, and often times as dense, fibrous, or grainy formations without visible crystals.

Properties

Believed to carry the traits of the master healer, clear quartz is used by healers to open the heart and mind and balance and guide one’s inner soul. This stone is quite adaptable as it can be programmed with any intention. It gives an energy boost and aids in healing and can help to achieve any purpose. However, spiritualists believe that it’s important to cleanse this magnificent crystal.

Clear Quartz is quite useful as it has piezo- and pyroelectric properties that can transform mechanical or heat energy to electromagnetic energy. Due to its ability to direct, intensify, store, and modify energy, it is used in various technological devices.

The multifaceted and versatile rock is used to encourage self-awareness, and attract love and success. Once you feel in sync with it, the stone can help to lift the mood. It protects the aura by creating a force field of healing negative ions. 

It also improves one’s intellect, strengthens and clears the mind, helps to concentrate better and improve memory. This stone helps to sleep better and is useful to understand the meaning behind dreams. The clear quartz crystal can also be used to amplify the energy of other stones.

Physical Healing Properties

Considered the master healer crystal, it can be employed to cure several conditions. It sets the body in balance and energizes it, by stimulating the immune and circulatory system. It can prove to be useful to relieve headaches, migraines, and also stabilize dizziness.

The rock is great for providing support with exhaustion, metabolism, and reducing weight. It can be quite helpful to treat digestive issues, treat diarrhea, and infections in the kidney and bladder.

Clear quartz crystal also helps to soothe sore and wounded areas. It works wonders in treating skin problems and burns in particular.

Emotional Healing Properties

Acting as a deep soul purifier, using the stone clears the soul and mind. The crystal helps to remove the negative energy within a person and replaces it with positive vibes. It makes the user self-conscious, patient, focused and gives an energy boost.

An Overview of Shale Gas

What is Shale Gas?

Shale gas is natural gas that is trapped within the tiny spaces of shale formations. Shale is fine-grained rocks formed from mud, silt, clay and organic matter. It is a hard, low permeable mudrock and can be a rich source of petroleum and natural gas. However, the oil and gas trapped in shale are very difficult to extract because either it is trapped in small pores or is absorbed on to clay mineral particles that form the shale.  

With advancements in technology and the use of a combination of various extraction techniques, large volumes of shale gas have been extracted over the last decade. Extraction techniques such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed access to large volumes of shale gas which were previously uneconomical to produce. The extraction of this gas gives hope to the world where the energy demand is increasing exponentially. It is expected that the reserves of shale gas are enough to sustain the global economy for centuries. 

Shale Gas vs. Natural Gas  

Shale gas is a type of natural gas. It is a mixture of various hydrocarbon gases and consists mainly of methane. However, there is a difference in how the gas is distributed under the surface of the Earth. There is also a difference in how it is extracted from the Earth.

Natural gas reserves are formed when the gas travels towards the Earth’s surface. The gas originates from an organic-rich source into a permeable reservoir rock. This reserve of gas is trapped by another layer of rock which is impermeable. So essentially, natural gas is trapped between layers of two different types of rocks. Thus, natural gas is extracted through vertical drilling. 

On the other hand, shale gas also forms from organic-rich sources. However, these sources are present within the shale rock. The rock is impermeable and this inhibits the gas to migrate towards the surface of the earth. As a result, the gas remains trapped within the rocks. To extract this type of gas, a combination of techniques called hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling is used. The wells are drilled horizontally. Later water, chemicals and sand are pumped into the wells to break the hydrocarbons. This process is known as hydraulic fracturing. Together, these processes allow for the extraction of hidden resource. 

Global Reserves of Shale Gas 

There is a rising environmental concern on the extraction of shale gas. Insertion of water and chemicals into the wells can disturb the water table. It can also contaminate the potential sources of water for nearby habitats. However, considering the exponential increase in global energy demand, there is an increasing extraction of shale gas. 

It is interesting to note that many countries around the world hold large reserves of shale gas. Below is a description of the five countries which hold the largest reserves of shale gas in the world. 

China 

Shale gas exploration is a very recent practice however, it progressed very rapidly. China holds almost 770 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas reserves with more than 26.98 trillion cubic feet of proven shale gas reserves. In 2016, the overall production of shale gas in China was around 280 billion cubic feet and it is expected to reach more than 1 trillion cubic feet by 2020.

Argentina 

Argentina is known to be the largest producer of dry gas. It also holds the second-largest reserves of shale gas. The country possesses 802 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. The extraction of shale gas from Argentina began after 2013 when Chevron and YPF, a vertically integrated energy company in Argentina, signed an agreement to develop the shale gas facility in the VacaMuerta field.  

Algeria 

Algeria, the largest country in Africa and the Arab world is also the third-largest country in the world when it comes to shale gas reserves. It possesses 70 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas. Significant foreign investment from ENI, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Talisman Energy Inc. will certainly play an important role in the development of shale gas facilities in Algeria. 

US

According to the estimates, the US holds the fourth-largest reserves of shale gas following China, Argentina and Algeria. It holds 665 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. As of now, the country is producing 87 billion cubic feet of shale gas per day. This product is expected to increase further. This increase in the extraction of shale gas has provided a boom to the US economy. It is estimated that the shale gas reserves are enough to sustain the energy needs of the US economy for the next 110 years.   

Canada 

Canada is one of the largest producers of natural gas in the world. It also holds the fifth-largest reserves of shale gas. It is estimated that the country holds 573 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves. There are significant explorations in Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick. However, due to inadequate local infrastructure and environmental protection laws, the country is unable to capitalize on this resource so far. Given the limited population and huge reserves of shale gas, the Canadian economy can continue to rely on this resource throughout the next century. 

Conclusion 

With the depleting natural resources and ever-increasing global energy demand, shale gas is the new ray of hope for the global economy. Apart from the list of countries, there are many other countries that hold large reserves of shale gas including Mexico, Australia and South Africa. Looking at the reserves, we can safely assume that this important resource can continue to meet the global energy needs for years to come. 

Black Holes – The Mystery of Outer Space

Photo by Yayimages

Ever wonder what a black hole is? If I told you that you would be stretched like a rubber band if you came near it, would have I captured your interest?

From planets that orbit around the Sun to galaxies that are bounded by a special force (gravity), the universe is full of surprises and one such surprise is the black hole. These entities have such a high gravitational pull that not even light can escape, which is quite fascinating and mind-boggling in itself. 

The existence of black holes was first predicted by Albert Einstein, but the term was coined many years later. Though considered a theoretical object, the first physical black hole was discovered in 1971, but the first-ever image of a black hole was released only this year, which has opened up a new area of study on these magnificent entities. Researchers and astronomers now know what a black hole looks like. But for us, it is important to understand what it is.

First-ever image of a black hole. 53 million light-years from here in the M87 galaxy. Scientists used the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) which are scores of telescope arrays located in different parts of the world and synchronized to focus on the object on the same day and at the same time.

What Exactly is a Black Hole?

Before we begin, we need to identify two entities. One is matter. The other is gravity. We all know what gravity is, so let’s focus on matter, which is nothing more than an object that is made up of atoms. From the tiniest microorganisms to the largest stars, all objects are made up of matter.

The next factor to note is that all matter has gravity, which is proportional to its size, the larger the object is, the more gravity it will have (we are talking about objects that exist in space, not on Earth).

One example is our planet Earth, which weighs about 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds (or 5,974,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms or 5.972 × 10^24 kg ). Yes, that’s a lot but when referring to the size of the universe, it is analogous to a grain of sand on a beach. Its weight (or amount of matter it contains) is sufficient to have enough gravitational pull to hold the moon in its orbit and revolve around it.   

On a grander scale is our Sun, whose gravitational pull keeps the Earth and the other seven planets to revolve around it. If the Sun had no gravity, the Earth (and every other body in our solar system) would be endlessly floating through the universe. 

When stars die, they collapse within each other. When our Sun dies, which is expected to happen in about 4.5 billion years, it would collapse into itself, because gravity would be pulling all its mass towards its center. The remains would be a piece of matter about the size of Earth, called a white dwarf.

Since the Sun doesn’t have a sufficient amount of matter/gravity to collapse into itself any further, it will remain as a white dwarf. Another way of describing a white drawf is that its mass may be equal to that of the Sun, but its volume is comparable to that of Earth. This type of event is very common and consists of about 97% of the stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

But What About Larger Stars?

Just think of a star that is massive enough to have such a strong amount gravity that all its matter gets pulled in to the point that it is so much smaller than the Earth size we mentioned before. As a general reference, let’s say about 18 miles in diameter.

In other words, it is packed so greatly that even though the result is a smaller object, it becomes more dense, because all that matter is condensed within a smaller volume. When this happens, it is called a supernova and results in what astronomers call a neutron star.

You Still Didn’t Explain How a Black Hole is Formed?

Those stars previously mentioned do not have sufficient mass to collapse to the point that it produces a black hole. Now, for stars that are that big, 

A black hole is an area in outer space with an exceptionally high gravitational pull. So far, we have predicted the force exerted by the black hole. But it is so strong that even light cannot escape if it goes close to a black hole. 

Scientists, however, have understood the reason for such a high gravitational pull. It is because matter has been crammed into a very tiny place. When very huge stars die, they form black holes that continue to absorb all the mass in the surrounding vicinity. Scientists also believe that at times, a single hole can merge with other nearby black holes. It is also hypothesized that the center of any galaxy in outer space is actually a huge black hole. 

Since since light cannot escape, we cannot see black holes. They are invisible, but their presence can be felt. NASA has managed to develop special space telescopes which can help locate black holes. These special telescopes can also observe how stars close to black holes behave differently compared to other stars. 

Black holes can vary in size. A small black hole can be as small as a single atom, but it can have a mass equivalent to a mountain. So regardless of the size, what makes black holes unique is the mass of matter which is squeezed into it. 

Types of Black Holes

Astronomers and researchers have categorized black holes into four types.

Supermassive Black Holes 

Artist Conception of a Supermassive Black Hole
Artist Conception of a Supermassive Black Hole (Wikipedia)

The first type of black holes is also the largest. This type of black hole has an immeasurable amount of mass. Scientists believe that supermassive black holes are present at the center of galaxies in space. This type of black hole is also found in our solar system and is located at Sagittarius A*. 

Intermediate Mass Black Holes

So far, this is a hypothetical type of black hole. The mass in these black holes can range from 100 to 10 hundred thousand solar masses. There is no proof of the existence of this type of black holes. However, there is indirect evidence of the existence of such black holes due to the behavior of certain stars. 

Stellar Black Holes 

This type of black hole is formed when giant stars collapse. The mass of such black holes range from 5 to 100 solar masses. This can be observed as a hypernova explosion or a burst of gamma-ray. This type of black holes is also called collapsars. 

Mini Black Holes 

This is the last type of black hole. As the name suggests, they are small black holes with less than 5 solar masses. Mini black holes were introduced by Stephen Hawkings in 1971.

Major Black holes Near Our Galaxy 

So far, researchers have spotted three major black holes near our galaxy. 

A0620-00

Scientists believe that A0620-00 is a stellar black hole, which is approximately three thousand lightyears away from the Earth. This system of a collapsing binary star belongs to the Monoceros constellation. It comprises of an unidentified quantity of solar mass and a star. 

Cygnus X-1

Found in the constellation of Cygnus, this black hole was discovered in 1964. This is one of the few black holes which are widely accepted by scientists around the world. It is estimated that this black hole has 15 solar masses, and is about 5 million years old. Scientists also believe that it comes from a star that was originally more than 40 solar masses. 

V404 Cygni

V404 Cygni is also categorized as a stellar black hole equivalent to 12 solar masses. It also has a star. The star and the black hole orbit within a close range. Because of the proximity of the star to the black hole and the intense gravitational pull, this star continues to lose mass to the black hole. 

Beyond Black Holes

There is nothing more mystifying in outer space than black holes. So far, we only know that as we get closer to the edge of the black hole, nothing returns. The gravitational pull is so high that it attracts even the tiniest particles of light. However, we also know that the force is different from suction. So just like something falls on the ground due to gravity, it moves into the black hole due to the same pull. It is believed that pressure and temperature inside the black holes can be so extreme that it does not support any form of organic life as we know it. Considering life forms that are not organic, we can definitely not comment on that now. No one knows for sure what lies inside the black holes. On one end, there is a galaxy, but what lies on the other side still remains a mystery.

Everything You Need to Know About Morganite

”Morganite

Photo by stellaryayimages.com

The Morganite gemstone is something you might be hearing about a lot nowadays. It has fast become a trend and for the people that have seen one in person, it is easy for them to understand why that’s the case. The Morganite is an exquisite violet-pink to light pink gemstone that has been a favorite among gemstone lovers for a few decades. It is an affordable yet resilient gem.

Morganite belongs to a family of minerals called the beryl and is often also referred to as Pink Beryl, Cesian Beryl and Pink Emerald. Morganite is one of the rarer variations of the beryl mineral and is considered second in rarity only to the red bixbite. The gemstone is a mesmerizing stone that has a pinkish and almost salmon colored hue, which sets it apart from the rest. This characteristic color for Morganite is because of the presence of manganese within the gem. Most Morganite gems are treated with heat that enhances the pinkish salmon hue even more.   

Here is a look at everything that you need to know about Morganite.

Morganite Color

The color of Morganite varies within a range of pinkish colors. They can be found in colors ranging from pink, rose, salmon to beach. The popularity of the Morganite gemstone in the market is for the rose and pink tints that the stone has. While there is still a demand for salmon and peach hues, they are not as popular as their pinkish counterparts.

The gemstone is almost always put through treatment that enhances the pink color. The treatment isn’t something you can detect. Heat treatment effectively drives out the orange and yellow tinge that Morganite has, leaving a purer pink color. The resulting color is stable and does not fade.

Clarity

Much like other variations of the beryl mineral, Morganite usually is a very clear gem. It does not have a lot of visible inclusions. The lesser clear varieties of Morganite are often cut or carved out as cabochons.   

Cuts

The Morganite gemstone has a very distinct color tone. The stronger color tones in Morganite are rare. Even if there are strong hues in the mineral, it has to be cut out from a fairly large stone in order to get the finest color from it. The orientation of the rough has to be considered carefully because of the pleochroism of this gemstone. It can be cut into all the standard shapes and sizes including unique designer cuts – this is one of the reasons why it is a popular gemstone for jewelry.  

Origin of Morganite Gemstones

Morganite can be found in different parts of the world. The two most prominent producers of the Morganite are Madagascar and Brazil. There are also sources of the gemstone that can be found in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, China, Mozambique, Russia, Namibia, China and even the United States.

Gemological Properties of Morganite

  • Chemical Formula: Al2(Be3[Si6O18])
  • Color: Pale Pink to Violet Pink, Salmon, Peach
  • Crystal Structure: Hexagonal
  • Hardness on Mohs Scale: 7.5 to 8
  • Cleavage: Indistinct
  • Fluorescence: Weak: Violet
  • Luster: Vitreous
  • Transparency: Transparent to opaque

Properties of Morganite Gemstone

For those who believe in the minerals’ emotional effects, Morganite is considered to be a stone that brings empathy, compassion, tolerance, self control and balance to the wearer. Through wearing the Morganite stone, a person can become capable of bringing stability to their life and control their emotions a lot better than before. The stone is also associated with easing up the pain of people who have gone through separation from someone significant in their life.

Morganite is a Heart Stone, which is also called the Stone of Divine Love. This stone brings love to the life of the wearer. The stone also has the potential to light the fire from an old flame and ignite the passion that one has in his or her love life.

One of the most wonderful things about the Morganite gemstone is that it is an aphrodisiac, which does not just allow the wearer to attract love but also to maintain it for the long term. It works by bringing in the caring and loving thoughts that help the two become more loving towards each other. It instills a greater feeling of wellbeing in both partners that wear the gemstone.

The beryl mineral is known to be a stone that physically heals people by relieving them of several conditions affecting the liver, their glands and eyes. Since Morganite is one of the variations of the Beryl mineral, it does not only have the aphrodisiac properties, it also enhances the properties shown by other beryl gem. Morganite also helps to reorganize the cells, oxygenating them and helps with breathing issues. It clears out lung blockages and asthma. It also has the power to cure emphysema.

Reasons Why You Can Use Morganite

Because there are so many properties that Morganite has, there are several uses that this stone can have for people. Some of these uses include:

  • Wearing it in order to relax the mind and reduce stress in your life.
  • It challenges the wearer to become the best in everything that they do.
  • It enhances a person’s level of confidence and instills a calming and peaceful feel in them, allowing for better handling of tough situations.
  • It increases a sense of gratitude in the person wearing it.
  • Wearing Morganite also makes a person grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
  • It increases the wearer’s wisdom.
  • It transforms a person’s bad experiences into challenges that they would want to take on and overcome.
  • It brings about a positive change in the wearer.

Ten Interesting Facts about Floods in the US

A bench partially submerged in flood water
Photo by gufoto – yayimages.com

To experience the devastations of floods, you don’t necessarily need to live in a high-risk flood zone. Regardless of where you live, floods can severely affect you. As the global climate is changing, there is a tremendous increase in the frequency of floods. Every year, floods are becoming more intense and causing more damage to life and property. 

The United States experiences floods very often. This is because the country is prone to many other natural disasters. Some interesting facts in the United States are highlighted below. 

Floods Can Occur Anywhere 

Where there is water, there can be floods. This natural disaster can occur anywhere, anytime. In the United States, flash floods can occur in all 50 states. They are triggered by a preceding event like a hurricane or a storm. 

The eastern part of the US often experiences hurricanes and severe thunderstorms. Both of these conditions can trigger flooding. On the other hand, the western part of the US is more prone to snow melts and heavy rainfall. 

Flash Floods May Develop Quickly 

Flash floods may develop is as little as six hours following the triggered event. In case of a dike or levee breakdown or the collapse of a dam, flash floods can occur within minutes. They may take slightly longer in case of excessive flow of river water through ice melts.

While heavy rainfall is one of the potential causes of floods, other natural disasters including hurricanes, storms, and snow melts can also lead to flooding. 

Floods Follow Tornadoes

In terms of loss of property and lives, floods are the second most destructive natural disasters in the United States. Tornadoes are the only natural disaster that has caused more damage in terms of life and property compared to floods.  

In the year 2011, the total damages from floods were $8.41 billion. As the intensity and frequency of floods has increased over the last few years, the damages also hiked.

Flooding is a “Top 5 Causes” of Weather-Related Deaths in the US

In the year 2014, flooding was the 4th leading cause of weather-related deaths in the US. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collected the data regarding fatalities due to natural disasters for the years 1984-2013. The data revealed that the average deaths related to flooding was 85 per annum. This was highest amongst other natural disasters including tornadoes, lightning strikes, and hurricanes.  

Floodplains Are Just 2% of the Earth’s Surface 

Floodplains are areas that have a higher risk of floods. They are low lying areas near the rivers and other water bodies. Naturally, only 2% of the Earth’s surface can be categorized as floodplains. The rest of the surface of land also gets affected by floods, but not as much as floodplains. 

Though floodplains experience extensive damage due to frequent floods, they play an important role in maintaining the ecosystem. Floodplains maintain the level of groundwater by absorbing flood water and releasing it gradually. They also provide clean water, wildlife habitat, and crops.  

Wetlands Save Costs

Flooding incurs a major repair cost as it extensively damages property and infrastructure. In the US, wetlands save more than $30 billion in damage repair. Since wetlands act as sponges, they absorb and store excess water. As a result, flood water does not remain standing. A single acre of wetland can absorb up to 330,000 gallons of water. This volume of water is enough to submerge thirteen homes. 

Apart from saving costs, wetlands play a crucial role in maintaining groundwater levels.  

Floods are Becoming More Frequent and More Intense 

Over the last few decades, the US has experienced major shifts in the weather. There has been a 20% increase in heavy rainfalls. Heavy rainfall has increased the frequency of floods. This, combined with the increased use of land, has intensified damages from the floods. The average annual loss from floods has increased from $6 billion in 2013 to $10 billion in 2017. 

Considering the global climate change, scientists have predicted that the weather will further worsen in the United States. The size of the floodplains in the US will increase by 40% in the next 50 years. This can have devastating consequences on future generations. 

Dikes or Levees Can Collapse 

Civilizations have been residing around rivers for centuries. When the technology was limited, people living near rivers built levees or dikes. This was their only defense against overflowing floodwater. As technology improved and dams were constructed, people continued to rely on levees. 

In the US, 100,000 miles of levees run across the nation. However, there is no record of the condition of these levees. An estimate of 40% of the population in the US lives in counties that still rely on levees. People now do not rely on levees for agricultural purposes alone; instead, homes and businesses are now constructed behind them. However, with the growing intensity of floods, levees are no longer a reliable option. 

Heavy rainfall induced by climate change, along with the deteriorating condition of the levees, can pose a threat to the population residing near rivers and streams. 

Ten Interesting Facts about Floods in the US

Floods are one of the world’s most common and most destructive natural disasters and usually are an after-effect of natural disasters. In fact, 90% of all natural disasters are followed by flooding. Heavy rainfall, melting glaciers, hurricanes, storms, tornadoes and earthquakes can all trigger floods. . 

To experience the devastations of floods, you don’t necessarily need to live in a high-risk flood zone. Regardless of where you live, floods can severely affect you. As the global climate is changing, there is a tremendous increase in the frequency of floods. Every year, floods are also becoming more intense and causing more damage to life and property. 

The United States experiences floods very often. This is because the country is prone to many other natural disasters. Some of the interesting facts about floods in the United States are highlighted below. 

Floods Can Occur Anywhere 

Where there is water, there can be floods. This natural disaster can occur anywhere, anytime. In the United States, flash floods can occur in all 50 states. They are triggered by a preceding event like a hurricane or a storm. 

The eastern part of the US often experiences hurricanes and severe thunderstorms. Both of these conditions can trigger flooding. On the other hand, the western part of the US is more prone to snow melts and heavy rainfall. 

Flash Floods May Develop Quickly 

Flash floods may develop is as little as six hours following the triggered event. In case of a dike or levee breakdown or the collapse of a dam, flash floods can occur within minutes. They may take slightly longer in case of excessive flow of river water through ice melts.

While heavy rainfall is one of the potential causes of floods, other natural disasters including hurricanes, storms, and snow melts can also lead to flooding. 

Floods Follow Tornadoes

In terms of loss of property and lives, floods are the second most destructive natural disasters in the United States. Tornadoes are the only natural disaster that has caused more damage in terms of life and property compared to floods.  

In the year 2011, the total damages from floods were $8.41 billion. As the intensity and frequency of floods have increased over the last few years, the damages also hiked.

Flooding is a “Top 5 Causes” of Weather-Related Deaths in the US

In the year 2014, flooding was the 4th leading cause of weather-related deaths in the US. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collected the data regarding fatalities due to natural disasters for the years 1984-2013. The data revealed that the average deaths related to flooding were 85 per annum. This was highest amongst other natural disasters including tornadoes, lightning strikes, and hurricanes.  

Floodplains Are Just 2% of the Earth’s Surface 

Floodplains are areas that have a higher risk of floods. They are low lying areas near the rivers and other water bodies. Naturally, only 2% of the Earth’s surface can be categorized as floodplains. The rest of the surface of land also gets affected by floods, but not as much as floodplains. 

Though floodplains experience extensive damage due to frequent floods, they play an important role in maintaining the ecosystem. Floodplains maintain the level of groundwater by absorbing flood water and releasing it gradually. They also provide clean water, wildlife habitat, and crops.  

Wetlands Save Costs

Flooding incurs a major repair cost as it extensively damages property and infrastructure. In the US, wetlands save more than $30 billion in damage repair. Since wetlands act as sponges, they absorb and store excess water. As a result, flood water does not remain standing. A single acre of wetland can absorb up to 330,000 gallons of water. This volume of water is enough to submerge thirteen homes. 

Apart from saving costs, wetlands play a crucial role in maintaining groundwater levels.  

Floods are Becoming More Frequent and More Intense 

Over the last few decades, the US has experienced major shifts in the weather. There has been a 20% increase in heavy rainfalls. Heavy rainfall has increased the frequency of floods. This, combined with the increased use of land, has intensified damages from the floods. The average annual loss from floods has increased from $6 billion in 2013 to $10 billion in 2017. 

Considering the global climate change, scientists have predicted that the weather will further worsen in the United States. The size of the floodplains in the US will increase by 40% in the next 50 years. This can have devastating consequences on future generations. 

Dikes or Levees Can Collapse 

Civilizations have been residing around rivers for centuries. When the technology was limited, people living near rivers built levees or dikes. This was their only defense against overflowing floodwater. As technology improved and dams were constructed, people continued to rely on levees. 

In the US, 100,000 miles of levees run across the nation. However, there is no record of the condition of these levees. An estimate of 40% of the population in the US lives in counties that still rely on levees. People now do not rely on levees for agricultural purposes alone; instead, homes and businesses are now constructed behind them. However, with the growing intensity of floods, levees are no longer a reliable option. 

Heavy rainfall induced by climate change, along with the deteriorating condition of the levees, can pose a threat to the population residing near rivers and streams. 

Tectonic Movements: How Earthquakes Happen

Earth cutaway schematic of the Earth

Felling the earth rumble under you has got to be one of the scariest moments one could experience. It feels like the whole planet is moving and you are helpless to stop it or even run somewhere for safety. If you are one of those unlucky people who have actually experienced this, you are not alone, as thousands of others have experienced the same horror.

Fortunately, these movements, more commonly called by their every day name – earthquakes, only last less than a minute, but the damage it leaves behind in both human lives and property is incomprehensible.

So you ask yourself – why did this happen? What can be done about it? Let’s delve into what causes earthquakes and see if we can remove the mystery of why the earth moves.

The Tectonic Plates

Map of earthquakes across the world
Fault lines across the world. Red indicates heavy plate movement and black depicts most intensive or most destructive earthquakes.
At a level that is just under the earth’s service, within an area called the lithosphere, platforms called tectonic plates exist. According to scientific studies, these plates move a about 0.6 inches per year. Nothing to really get excited about. It is when there is heavy movement that we need to worry.

The plates are broken up into 12 regions, like 12 pieces of a jig saw puzzle that are connected to each other. When the plates move, they bump into each other at their (jig  saw) connections, officially called boundaries, causing collisions, or conversely, break away from each other. The image above depicts where these boundaries exist, which are called fault lines. The colors represent how intense the earthquake was. It is at these fault lines that when the plates move, volcanoes, mountains and tsunamis occur. As you can see, there is an abundance of fault lines across the entire west coast of the United States.

What lies directly under these plates is the source that causes the tectonic plates to move.

The Earth’s Mantle

Under the Earth graphic cut away
Under the tectonic plates is the mantle, which consists of magnesium and iron-bearing silicates. You can think of the tectonic plates as the ‘skin’ of the earth, analogous to the skin of an apple. Proportionally they are about the same in depth. So when the there is movement in the mantle, the plates above it feel this movement and they will then move accordingly. How much movement is dependent upon the intensity of the changes within the mantle.

What Occurs When the Teconic Plates Collide?

Earthquakes are caused by these collisions, as one plate moves over the other, the Earth shakes. The measurement of intensity is rated using a Richter Scale, which records the magnitude of the collisions, with ‘1’ being unnoticeable, up to ’10’, which can cause massive death and destruction. Fortunately, an earthquake of ’10’ is very rare.

What is the Current Theory of Plate Movement?

The reason why the plates move is still under conjecture, but one theory is that heat from radioactive processes within the planet’s interior is what causes the plates to move.

The latest theory is called slab pull, where areas of the lithosphere becomes less dense than the asthenosphere. This causes these areas above to sink further down into the mantle, pulling slabs of the lithosphere apart,  causing the plates to move in different directions. As a result, these regions are spreading or rifting,

Tetonic activity map over the Earth's history
Tetonic Activity Map Over the last One Million Years

The Latest Findings

But as it turns out, such interactions between continental plates is not the only reason for these various geological processes. Research led by a joint team of the University of Toronto and University of Aberdeen researchers have achieved an enormous breakthrough!

According to the research that uses supercomputers to run a model of the Earth’s upper mantle and crust, the prehistoric geological events could have left deep ‘scars’ that may play a significant role in earthquakes, tsunamis, formation of mountains or ocean trenches and many other ongoing geological processes.

The models created by the researchers indicate that the previous plate boundaries could stay buried deep below the surface of the Earth. These structures, which are no less than many millions of years old, are located far from the current plate boundaries and may cause drastic changes in the surface properties and structure of the interior of the continents.

The researchers went a step further to propose a new map highlighting the ancient geology of the Earth. The ‘perennial plate tectonic map’ explains through illustrations how the prehistoric geological events could affect today’s geological processes. The map is based on the common tectonic map, which is taught in elementary school, but it has been modified to include the concealed, ancient plate boundaries that may be involved in plate tectonic activity in the past as well as the present.

Owing to this recent breakthrough, some major revisions are required to the fundamental idea of plate tectonics. The research paper titled, ‘Lasting mantle scars lead to perennial plate tectonics’ appeared in the Nature Communications issue of June 10, 2016.

Conclusion

So we see that plate movements below the Earth’s surface can cause these disturbances to occur, but how they occur is still a forum for debate. At least we know where it happens most (fault lines) and precautions have been and will be taken for earthquakes to minimize damage.